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USF's Marlon Mack questionable for Northern Illinois

Bulls two-time 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack currently is going through a concussion protocol after taking a potent second-quarter hit during Saturday night's 56-20 victory against Towson.

He's questionable for Saturday's home game against Northern Illinois, Coach Willie Taggart said Monday. He'll be replaced by senior Darius Tice and junior D'Ernest Johnson, who combined for 65 rushing yards on Saturday.

"We're just gonna run our offense," Taggart said. "We always feel like we have a healthy group of running backs back there and guys that we don't have to change anything up if someone goes down. We'll still run our offense and see if we can continue to get better."

Mack appeared to get smacked on the right shoulder by 249-pound Towson LB Diondre Wallace on a run up the middle. He fumbled and remained on the ground for several moments before walking off on his own power.

He didn't return, but after the game, Taggart said Mack told him, 'I'm cool, Coach.' ... When he told me he was good I was all right."

Tice has 737 career rushing yards, and played extensively (15 carries, 94 yards) in the Bulls' 65-27 rout of Cincinnati last season. Had his 43-yard TD connection with QB Quinton Flowers -- which appeared to be a backward lateral -- counted as a run Saturday, he would've finished with seven carries for 80 yards against Towson.

Johnson, who also returned punts and even made a tackle in kickoff coverage Saturday, has 480 career rushing yards.

"Those guys help each other out so much," Taggart said Monday on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference.

"They compete against each other daily and make themselves better, but they take pride in that position room that no matter who's in there, they expect the production to keep going."

BETHEL SIDELINED: OG Glen Bethel, a heralded junior college transfer initially projected to start right away for USF, remains sidelined with an eligibility issue, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

Taggart would only say Monday that Bethel is "going through some things" that he hopes to know more about soon. Bethel didn't suit up for Saturday night's game.

With Bethel out of the rotation, senior Dominique Threatt and junior Jeremi Hall started at guard against Towson, with sophomore Michael Smith and redshirt freshman Brooks Larkin lining up with the second team.

ODDS AND ENDS: NIU returned home Sunday at 9 a.m. EST from its trip to Wyoming, where it fell to the Cowboys 40-34 in a triple-overtime game that ended at 4:34 a.m. EST. ... Former Bulls QB Mike White was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week after a smashing debut (517 passing yards, three TDs) for Western Kentucky in its 46-14 rout of Rice. ... The Bulls were shut out in the AAC's weekly awards voting, not a surprise considering Taggart emptied his bench in a romp of an FCS team.